Brrrrrr… Greetings from icy Toronto, Canada! With temperatures dipping as low as -30OC on occasion it may not be considered the ideal holiday destination in the winter months. If you were here for the annual PDAC mining conference, however, there is no better word to describe it than ideal.

No amount of snow, icy wind or freezing temperatures could detract me or this year’s PDAC mining houses, trade show exhibitors and delegates from attending – all 25 000+ of them representing the true diversity of our global industry including investors, analysts, mining executives, geologists, government officials and students. And I am proud to say that Mining Review Africa was the only African press member representing our glorious continent of untapped mineral wealth.

By comparison with our more familiar Cape Town Mining Indaba, PDAC is truly international and covers mining from one corner of the globe to the other. In the space of just four days I have come to recognise and truly appreciate the enormous scale of the industry across continents. It was as if the world’s mining sector came together under one roof to share in the one major characteristic we all share in common – building new mines.

South America, Canada and Mexico are clearly popular mining territories and each region hosts its own fascinating geological structures and ore bodies. No matter the circumstances in relation to capital requirements, operational and development costs, infrastructure challenges and political difficulties, the mining industry prevails and new mines are built. That familiar and popular catch phrase: ‘If you can’t grow it you have to mine it’ couldn’t be more true. This is the reason for our thriving industry. PDAC is like a lifeline support that reminds us why we do what we do and love what we love.

What really whet my appetite though was discovering, meeting and chatting with the multitude of global players, spread across countless aisles, talking about their great big plans for Africa. The excitement and enthusiasm is plentiful and undeniably contagious and I have come away with new contacts, new projects and enough information for what feels like a lifetime. I can’t wait to share it with you!

What did become apparent was two-fold. West Africa and Burkina Faso and Liberia in particular is clearly the place to be if you want to realise mining wealth over the next few years; and mining companies are making smarter, more cost effective project decisions to reduce the cash they need to move to production without taking on massive amounts of upfront debt. Small-scale, modular start-ups are trending and everyone is doing it, and I mean everyone gauging by the numbers at PDAC. Prove your resource, put in a small modular plant, start generating cash and reinject it into the operation to expand. How smart to follow the shortest pathway to production without burning a deep hole in your wallet. I love the flexibility of mining houses to adapt and cope with change.

Mining Review Africa was also invited to a private interview session with our South African mining minister, Susan Shabangu. With only two other journalists in attendance, the event was extremely exclusive. Between that and two additional talks she gave over the four day conference a few things are clear. Minister, you are not aware of the negative sentiment the country is receiving and I am more certain of this than ever having listened to international speakers deliver on the topic. Your aspirations may be in the right place, but unfortunately things are going horribly wrong. Our poor industry is under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. I also want to thank you for reassuring me/us that your plans to leave or retire are hearsay and nothing more. This could not have been better reiterated when you said, “I am going nowhere. I am fighting the fight for our people and nothing will stop me from continuing to do so.”

That said, I walk away extremely positive about mining, in Africa in particular. I must first make the long journey back to South Africa but look forward to my desk, sitting down and writing about our world’s true mining oyster. With PDAC behind me, I will treasure the experience and look back on the time as a snowy mining feast!

View other articles from Mining Review Africa issue 3/2014